Cowboys, Indians and A-Rigs

A story of how bass fishing brings together people from around the world and all walks of life

"I think they've got a better action than other swimbaits," Lemon said of the Sweet Swimmers. "They're not too big, and they're not too small. I've just got a lot of confidence in them."

From day to day, Lemon thinks there are some subtleties to fishing an umbrella rig that many anglers don't understand. Some days you have to "just crawl it across the bottom." On other days, Lemon will rig it with just hooks, no jigheads, and retrieve it just under the water surface.

He always fishes it, and everything else, on Shimano Curado reels and Shimano Cumara rods, with a 7-foot, 9-inch "heavy" model being particularly suited for throwing A-rigs, he said.

And, no, he doesn't have a "deal" with Shimano.

"I've got an old Curado that I've had for 15 or 20 years," Lemon said. "It works as good today as the day I bought it."

On this day, the 1/8-ounce jigheads and Sweet Swimmers fished slowly around boat docks were the A-rig ticket. The water near the Twin Spillways area of Grand Lake was clear and 50 degrees. Lemon speculated that some anglers might find bass on beds in the warmer water up the lake, but he wanted the cooler, prespawn conditions.

It seemed like the perfect game plan, especially when Lemon capped the morning by landing a 7.19-pounder on his favorite umbrella rig setup.

Lemon speculated that he and Soukup could have weighed a five-bass limit near 30 pounds by the time they left at 12:30 p.m.

By that time, I was in Sawhney's boat. Barnes has enough tournament experience to know that we didn't need to be anywhere near where Lemon and Soukup had pre-fished that morning, just out of courtesy. So we moved to the dirtier water in the mid-lake area, and the bass were hitting umbrella rigs there, too.

I threw everything possible to prove that something other than an umbrella rig would produce a bass that day on Grand Lake. And I failed to do it.

But that didn't prevent me from having a most memorable day. When you're around veteran tournament fishermen, as when covering the Bassmaster Elite Series, you can forget just how exciting it is for someone less experienced to catch a big bass. Tejmohan Sawhney reminded me of it in grand style that afternoon. When the world-traveled, 36-year-old Walmart executive hooked and landed a 6-pounder, you would have thought he'd just picked the winning PowerBall numbers.

Fifteen minutes after the fish had been released back into Grand Lake, Sawhney said, "Ooh, that felt good. I can still feel his teeth on my fingers."

Billy Lemon isn't about to quit his day job. (He and Soukup finished 17th the next day in the Nichols tournament at Grand Lake.) He's long been employed as an "inside salesman" by Webco Industries, a major steel tubing manufacturing and distributing company that has its corporate headquarters in Sand Springs.

Since winning two tournaments in a row on Grand Lake and catching the 12-pounder – all on an umbrella rig – Lemon has proven it's the angler, not the lure, by pitching and flipping his way to the win at Fort Gibson.

"Finesse fishing is probably my strength," Lemon said. "But I think I'm pretty good at everything. I like to throw a (Norman) DD22, too. My weakness is probably being able to really take advantage of the electronics available today."

So, even at age 43, the dream is still very much alive for Lemon.

"I've built up a lot of confidence, in the last couple of months," Lemon said.

That's the thing about being a professional bass tournament fisherman — age doesn't limit your ability as much as experience enhances it, i.e., the 10,000-hour rule.

As for Tejmohan Sawhney, he started late, but he might make it to 10,000 hours in record time.

"Are you busy in July?" Sawhney asked me recently.

I pointed out that there wasn't a single Elite Series tournament scheduled in July.

Sawhney, excited as usual, said, "My wife and daughter are going to India in July. Just come up here and move in with me. We'll go fishing every day!"

Sounds like a plan, Tej, that sounds like a very good plan.